The NFL has today announced that it will commit a quarter of a billion dollars to a fund with the intention of combating systemic racism and battling injustices faced by African Americans. The money will be donated over the span of 10 years and comes amid rising tensions across the country following the murder of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police.
A social justice program for the NFL was first created several years ago following players’ protestations over police brutality and racial injustice, but many have criticized the league over its handling of Colin Kaepernick over the years, as well as general attitudes about, and a lack of action to battle, social injustices. Kaepernick first took the knee during the national anthem in protest around four years ago and players that have followed suit since have been the target of verbal attacks from a variety of elected officials, including President Donald Trump himself.
In line with the protests and raised awareness about how African Americans are often treated in the country, the NFL have stepped up their game to show support for the fight for social justice, first apologizing for the treatment of Kaepernick, and now with a significant donation.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without the work Colin and other players have led off,” a league source said. “That is a key point here. We listened to our players. We needed to listen more, we needed to move faster. We heard them and launched a social justice platform because of what Colin was protesting about.
“The players have always been an essential piece of this effort and this campaign. It would be awesome to engage Colin on some of the work we are doing. He’s doing real impactful work.
Getting him in some way would be amazing for us. There’s a lot of work to do to get to that point. We’re certainly open and willing to do that.”
According to the league source, NFL officials have been meeting over the past week to discuss how the organization could best commit to support the fight for social justice. The long-term financial pledge is the NFL’s way of stating that it is ready to support the cause, not just now, but many years into the future.
“There was just a real desire to put another stake in the ground and say, we’re not done here yet,” the person said. “There is so much more work to do and this is not a short term problem we can fix in the next couple of years.”
The NFL has already donated over $40 million to its social justice causes by funding 20 national social justice grant partners and matching contributions to 350 local grassroots organizations identified by players and former players. The figure will reach the $250 million mark by 2030, with the league looking to work with players and staff to identify programs that address criminal justice reform, police reform and economic and educational advancement for African Americans.
“It has been a difficult time in our country, in particular, black people in our country. First, my condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and all the families that have endured police brutality. We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe Black Lives Matter,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a video statement posted on Twitter last week, “I personally protest with you and want to be a part of the much needed change in this country. Without black players there would be no National Football League. And the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality, and oppression of black players, coaches, fans, and staff. We are listening, I am listening, and I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices, and others on how we can move forward together for a better and more united NFL family.”
Goodell’s comments on their own represent a positive step in the right direction for the commissioner and his league, especially considering the treatment of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick four years ago when he took a knee during the national anthem. Goodell’s attitude turnaround, coupled with the NFL’s pledge to donate a quarter of a billion dollars to fight social injustice, means that many across the country are hopeful that the league is finally making meaningful and long-lasting steps towards change.
Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson has said that he and a number of his peer intend to kneel during the national anthem when the 2020 season begins.